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Japanese leading ladies in TIFF retrospective

dragnet girl

Janus Films Kinuyo Tanaka, left, in Dragnet Girl, part of the Japanese Divas program at the Lightbox.

JAPANESE DIVAS: Leading ladies get ready for their close-ups in Japanese Divas, the heftiest of TIFF Bell Lightbox’s new three-part series on Japanese cinema, itself one of many events celebrating the country’s culture happening all over Toronto. The 30-film program hits its stride this weekend with two justly revered classics, both of which showcase powerhouse performances by their female stars. In Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 hit Rashomon (Jan. 26 at 5 p.m.), Machiko Kyo plays everything from the tragic victim to the eager conspirator in multiple retellings of the same story of an aristocratic couple menaced by a bandit on a forest road. The wrenchingly sad saga of a well-born young lady brought low by the callous men who treat her as their property, Kenji Mizoguchi’s 1952 historical drama The Life of Oharu (Jan. 27 at 1 p.m.) marks a high point in the long collaboration between the director and actress Kinuyo Tanaka. She makes an earlier appearance in 1933’s Dragnet Girl (March 2 at 3 p.m.), an uncharacteristically zippy crime flick by Yasujiro Ozu, a master who’s otherwise represented by the more ruminative likes of Tokyo Story (Feb. 3 at 2 p.m.). Another essential at Japanese Divas, Hiroshi Teshigahara’s Woman in the Dunes (Feb. 8 at 6:30 p.m.) was an international sensation upon its release in 1964. One reason was most certainly the allure of Kyoko Kishida, who plays an enigmatic widow in one of 1960s cinema’s most potent combinations of existentialism and eroticism. Japanese Divas runs at Lightbox to March 31.

STAG: A Toronto-made addition to the not-so-honorable tradition of movie comedies about bachelor parties gone wrong, Stag is a suitably raucous showcase for Canadian funnymen Jon Dore and Pat Thornton as well as former Scrubs star Donald Faison. This debut feature by Brett Heard makes its hometown premiere with a run at Cineplex Odeon Yonge-Dundas on Jan 25, 27 and 29. Heard and cast members will surely keep the good times rolling with post-screening Q&As, too. The Y&D location’s Event Screen programming slate also boasts extended runs of The Man Who Knew Too Much, Do the Right Thing and a double bill of the Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs and its Hollywood remake The Departed.

THE GOLD RUSH: The Yukon proves to be anything but a land of opportunity for a boot-eating Little Tramp in The Gold Rush, one of Charlie Chaplin’s most beloved comedies. The Revue Cinema’s Silent Sundays presents this 1925 favourite with live piano accompaniment on Jan. 27 at 4 p.m.

DR. STRANGELOVE: Slim Pickens once again gets to ride an A-bomb all the way to Armageddon when Stanley Kubrick’s Cold War comedy returns to big screens in this month’s edition of Cineplex’s Most Wanted Mondays program. Dr. Strangelove plays Jan. 28 at 7:30 p.m. at four theatres.

HELLO I MUST BE GOING: An American comedy about a young divorcee who moves back in with her parents, Hello I Must Be Going scored the opening spot at last year’s Sundance film festival. Alas, this latest effort by Love Liza director Todd Louiso — which earned many admiring notices for the performances by Melanie Lynskey and Blythe Danner as the beleaguered daughter and mother — didn’t get a chance to make the journey to Toronto until this weekend. The Toronto Jewish Film Festival’s monthly Chai Tea and a Movie program hosts the movie’s local premiere at Jan. 27 at Cineplex Odeon Sheppard Cinemas. The tea starts at 4 p.m. with the screening to follow at 5 p.m.

TASTE OF CHERRY: If Amour has given you an urge to see past Palme d’Or winners, then the latest selection in Innis College’s Free Friday Film series should be on your must-see list. Iranian auteur Abbas Kiarostami’s story of a taciturn man’s tragicomic quest to end his life, Taste of Cherry shared the top prize at Cannes in 1997 with Shohei Imamura’s The Eel. It plays Jan. 25 at 7 p.m. at Innis Town Hall.

TEACHING THE LIFE OF MUSIC: Glee star Cory Monteith narrates this new documentary about El Sistema, a Venezuelan organization that uses music education to help improve the lives of children in violent and impoverished environments. In order to bring more attention to a model program here in Toronto and launch its new teachers’ guide, the Yorkwoods Public School and the Documentary Organization of Canada present a free screening of Teaching the Life of Music on Jan. 28 at 6:30 p.m. Writer-producer Noemi Weis will be part of the panel discussion that follows.

SHINSEDAI LECTURE SERIES: The co-founder of Toronto’s Shinsedai Cinema Festival, Chris MaGee shares his considerable knowledge of Japanese film in a lecture series beginning Feb. 5. Covering the history of the country’s movie industry from 1897 to the present, MaGee’s talks will cover key films and major cinematic movements. The series runs for seven successive Tuesdays from Feb. 5 to March 19 in room B025 at the University of Toronto’s Bahen Centre (40 St. George St.) Cost is $ 12 per lecture or all seven for $ 75 (students and seniors pay $ 9 and $ 56). See for more details. – entertainment

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